Friday, September 30, 2011

What A Wonderful World

Don't know much about history,
Don't know much biology.
Don't know much about a science book,
Don't know much about the french I took -
Sam Cooke "Wonderful World"

For the last decade, I have made a practice of sitting down at dinner with my son and turning to him to ask, "What did you learn in school today?" To his credit, he has attempted to answer this question in a thoughtful way more times than not. Many times he has settled for an anecdote from the lunch room or playground, but he knows that a shrug of the shoulders and "I dunno" will not be sufficient reply. There have been plenty of days that he has been anxious to let us know about the things he's learned, especially in science, where things blow up and are set on fire.
Then there are the days that take a little more prying, and that's when I feel sorry for him. I know that when I was in school it was 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Sure, there was some wild talk even back then about how it might have been Vikings who ran aground on these shores ahead of him, but it certainly wasn't going to be on the test. Now he needs to know that Christopher Columbus' navigation skills were suspect and that he may have been responsible for the genocide of Native Americans. Not Indians. He will have to remember the events of September 2001 as part of history with causes and effects. He will probably be in school long enough to witness the revision of George W. Bush's presidency, much in the way I was asked to reevaluate Richard Nixon's administration: He opened China. He was tough on crime. He started the Environmental Protection Agency. Vietnam? Watergate? Bad choices made under duress.
My son is also responsible for more science than I ever was. New planets are being discovered, while Pluto is being relegated to being the name of Mickey's dog. Knowing that there are atoms and what they are made of is a jumping off point. Now he needs to know what comes between them. Thirty years ago, I had to sign up to get some time on the school's punch-card driven computer. Now my son is asking if he can unplug my laptop to plug his in because mine runs too slow.
Then there's French. As it turns out, there's really only one reason to learn that language: to order in a French restaurant. The good news here is that my son is taking Spanish, since we live down the street from a really great taqueria.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Relegated"? "Relegated"?!?! It is an HONOR, sir, to share one's name with Mickey's dog, an honor greater, I propose--nay, aver with every confidence!--than that of being a planet.